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Albatros fighters by Ray Rimell

By Ray Rimell

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One after another, the Belgian forts were blasted into submission. When the last fort surrendered on August 17, the Germans began their march across Belgium, driving thousands of frightened refugees before them. Rumors spread that the Belgians were planning a guerilla war of sabotage and assassination. Surprised by Belgian resistance and enraged by heavy German casualties, German soldiers imagined that snipers were shooting at them from every window and rooftop, even when there were no snipers in the area.

Gruesome atrocity stories began to appear in the newspapers. The German public read that the invading Russians were poisoning German lakes and cutting off the limbs of captured German soldiers, and that the French and Belgians were gouging out prisoners’ eyes. The French were told that the Germans bayoneted babies, raped children, and cut off the hands of French boys so they could never become soldiers. None of the stories were true, but people believed and repeated them. ” Anti-German feelings in Britain ran so high that families with German names felt compelled to rename themselves.

They feared that an Austrian war against Serbia might set off a deadly chain reaction, pulling in other nations, such as Serbia’s ally, Russia. Europe’s Great Powers, as they called themselves, considered their options and began to eye one another warily. Several crises in the recent past had been resolved peacefully by diplomacy. A peaceful resolution was the hope of Sir Arthur Nicholson of the British Foreign Office. ” 2 Armed to the Teeth The crowned heads of Europe—some of whom would soon be at war—assembled in 1910 for the funeral of British king Edward VII.

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